A list of places I’ve avoided because of boys (Part 2)

Have you ever avoided a particular place, perhaps a bar or a venue, maybe at a specific time, because you consciously or subconsciously associate it to a particular person, one you’d rather not see? We’re definitely guilty of it. If you missed part 1 you can read it here.

Katie. Now to continue with the destruction of my character… Unfortunately the next few are much more recent and more cringe as I haven’t got the excuse of my 18-year-old naivety to hide behind. So regretfully I admit that THIS IS ALL ME, BABY!

4. All Suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa

I used to date a guy from Cape Town. We met over a summer when he was working in the UK, and by the time he made his return and I went to uni I felt like everything was set. I was in love, at least I thought I was. He was super affectionate and very very fit, and I misguidedly thought these qualities made him better than me, and that I was lucky to be dating him. Spoiler alert, this would turn out to probably be the other way around (not to be cocky.)

My student loan dropped and I immediately bought plane tickets to visit him in January. But one month into being apart, problems were beginning to show. I wouldn’t say he was controlling but he was very stroppy and pretty self-absorbed. If I chose to do something with my friends over talking to him on the phone for hours on end, he would first ignore me before sending cryptic messages. “I can’t believe you would do this,” “you want to hang out with your friends over me,” and his favourite, go-to line: “I see how little I mean to you now, I thought you loved me.” Consoling him was honestly exhausting, so I began to lie about whatever I was doing. I was being treated like I had cheated when all I did was go to the local pub with my four, mostly coupled up, housemates. A few months after the lying began I started looking into how to get a refund for my flight if I decided to cancel. The potential of a small return seemed pretty positive as I thought any kind of refund was off the cards; now I wasn’t wasting the £600 I spent on tickets, my future seemed a little less locked in. 

Then the big argument came. I had avoided telling him my doubts, knowing it would end in a barrage of accusations about my lack of devotion towards him. I can’t even remember what it was about, which shows how painfully insignificant and ridiculous it all was. All I know is it ended with him crying his eyes out over FaceTime, repeating “so this is it? You want to leave me?” over and over. I couldn’t get a word in, and felt so bad I tried to make myself cry. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t devastated, even though if anything I was overwhelmingly relieved. The argument couldn’t have come sooner as it gave me a way out. The call ended, followed by a stream of angry texts calling me a whore in increasingly creative ways. Luckily I have a great friend who is brilliant in the art of distraction so I didn’t fall into a hole of despair and ended the night with my gal signing me up for the next season of First Dates, providing a lot of much needed entertainment.

If I bumped into him now I don’t know how he would react which I think makes it slightly worse. He was never loud or aggressive but he could be very manipulative and bitchy and I just don’t want that in my life. To the untrained eye, my avoidance of every suburb of Cape Town probably seems a bit drastic but unfortunately because I don’t pay attention I can’t actually remember the exact name of the place I’m avoiding. So just to be safe, all suburban areas within the Cape Town vicinity are off limits.

An illustration of a plane on a yellow background, with pink lines leading to the destination X. A fragment of a plane tickets describes the destination as Cape Town. The passenger's name is Katie.

5. EE Store, Maidstone

I need to preface this by saying this one is definitely my fault and not at all the man in question’s fault. I am just a moron.

I was buying a new phone and wanted to transfer my data over from my old phone. This was back when you could still do this in-store instead of all the weird app and cloud shit you have to do now that no one understands. You would basically leave your phone at the store for an hour or so and they’d move all your contacts, photos and other stuff over for you whilst you went for a wander in town. They showed me the beginning of the process before I left: you could see everything moving over to the new device as it previewed on the phone screen. I was happy it was all getting sorted and when I returned an hour later, I noticed a big grin on the faces of the three men in the store. They smirked as the one I spoke to before approached me to return my phone, saying to have a nice day. 

I left feeling a little confused, like something had happened that I hadn’t realised. I checked to see if I’d split my pants or something, but nothing was amiss. After entering my car it hit me. There were a few, maybe a couple more than a few nudes on my phone, and every single one would have previewed fully on my phone screen as the transfer went through. Just to clarify for all of you who aren’t aware, I am a MORON.

I know none of you are going to believe me but they weren’t sex nudes and I wasn’t sending them to anyone. They were mainly for me to feel good about myself after the aforementioned break up. Luckily they weren’t crotch shots and actually they were pretty tasteful, only showing ass whilst covering all the explicit areas. Regardless I was hit with a severe dose of embarrassment and from that day forward I have avoided that specific EE Store in Maidstone. Even though the likelihood of seeing those exact staff members again and them recognising me is pretty low.

An illustration of 3 phone screen sections, each with part of a naked female body on the screen.

6. Big flat block in Nottingham (I don’t know what it’s called but could definitely point it out)

It was the Christmas break and I was home from uni enjoying the festive spirit. Newly single, I was excited for the freedom of not having a boy to look after and the potential for new romance. My phone buzzed and looked down to see a text from a friend of a friend I had met a couple times. We had got on very well and he was my type to a T, so it’s safe to say I was pretty excited for the texting to begin. 

January came around and we were still messaging, and when I went back up to Loughborough we finally started meeting up. This would consist of going to each other’s houses, getting drunk and then falling asleep. After this happened a few times, I suggested we went out in town instead. He clearly wasn’t interested, and although I sensed something was up, I was so excited to be talking to someone new so I just brushed it off as him being in a bad mood. Unfortunately that seemed to become the trend of our “relationship.” He would often ghost me for a week at a time, only to return with an apology that he’d been feeling down. The little naive soul I was, I’d forgive and forget and carry on texting, despite being exhausted by his constant ups and downs. I never knew where I stood with him, but as we had mutual friends I felt like I needed to act like I was OK with his behaviour even though on the inside I wanted to cry.

Eventually we had our final meet up at his flat. I was wrecked already and ended up getting a taxi there even though it was hella expensive. In my mind I was going to sort it all out and clear up what was happening between us. Of course, the alcohol had really kicked in by the time I arrived, so the plan went out the window. I can’t remember much of that night other than there definitely being an awkward energy. After this “date” we exchanged a few texts but after he ghosted me this time, he returned with a message saying that it was over. Often I see my alcohol black-outs as a bad thing but in this case I think it was a God-send; if I had any memories of that night, I’d probably have analysed every second of it to try and figure out what went wrong. Eventually I was informed he got back with his ex about a month later, which answered all my questions regarding why we never went out, why he was ghosting me, why he was so awkward the last time I saw him. 

In hindsight I can see that it was never going to work. Back then I would have been so happy to accidentally bump into him and go for spontaneous drinks, where we realised we still liked each other like they do in the movies – but now even the idea of being anywhere near his flat is enough to make myself cringe at the thought of how much I was infatuated with him. So for that reason that big flat block in Nottingham is out of bounds.

An illustration of a map of Nottingham, marking the boundary of the 'danger zone' and 'cringe line' with a blue marker at a location near Lace Market.

7. Oak Tavern and Tap House Pub, Sevenoaks

I was dating a guy one summer and I thought it was going pretty well. He was smart and such a gentleman and I was really starting to like him. 3 months in I got a text (a text!) out of the blue (when I was in the bath!) basically saying he didn’t see much point in us continuing because I was going back to uni and he didn’t want to do long distance. I was heart-broken, balling my eyes out to my friends over the phone. I felt like I was stuck in an unlucky loop, always starting to really like someone only for them to suddenly end it. I had always responded to these let-downs like it was fine, even trying to make them feel better for breaking up with me. But this time I was going to make a stand, and by stand I mean I ended up not responding to his break-up message for about a month.

A year passed and I was back home after graduating. We hadn’t spoken at all and I had even dated a few people since him; honestly he’d been forgotten. Guess who pops up again, out of the blue? He would message me, often in response to an Instagram story, and I would of course reply and he’d always ghost me. I was getting frustrated. Why was he talking to me after so long? One night he made the ill-fated decision to contact me whilst I was out drinking which meant my balls were heavily inflated, and I ended up calling him out. He responded with the most lame, bullshit response ever. “I’m not really texting you for any reason. Like I don’t want anything, sorry.” I saw red, Why the fuck would you message an ex for no reason? It’s not like we have mutual friends or bump into each other often. We don’t need to be amicable because we don’t know each other anymore so WHY ARE YOU MESSAGING ME?!?

Unfortunately for him I wasn’t just angry about his reply, I was also generally pissed off with the way boys treated me when I dated them. I was a door mat and they would come in with muddy boots and wipe their shit all over me and I would just always be cool with it. I had had enough. I ended up writing a long message saying how it’s not at all okay to message exes for no reason and how it’s just playing with peoples feelings and that if I dated someone for 3 months I would have the balls to break up with them in person. I’m not saying he deserved my full rage but it felt good to finally tell someone that it’s not okay to be a dick to me.

Anyways you’re probably wondering what this has to do with a pub. His favourite bar was the Oak Tavern and Tap House Pub in Sevenoaks and I avoid it with a wide radius as bumping into him will be super awkward after I gave him that much grief and I am not emotionally prepared for that now or ever.

An illustration of 4 phones with lit up screens on a table from above, surrounded by drinks cups on green coasters. The text in a green speech bubble says: "Why are you messaging me? What do you want?!" in capital letters.

Nikitah. There have been many places I’ve avoided because of boys, and gone to embarrassingly great lengths to do so. Crippled with the cringe of remembering the memories that turned sour, I’ve avoided blanket areas of square mileage where I know they work / their last known address / the locations of past failed dates / public areas where, out of all the layers of time, passing tubes and winding streets of London, we’ve found ourselves in the same place at the same time, no longer dating each other (this has happened multiple times) – they’ve laughed at me (once), they’ve awkwardly left (twice) or we’ve unwisely left the venue together (thankfully just once). Here are a few more of my spectacular avoidances.

4. Skiing / Kennington

Although I have never skied, I can appreciate that it is more of an activity than a place. I tend to avoid conversations about skiing, places where conversations about skiing are being held, as well as physical skiing. Since I live in south-east England (not a mountain range in sight) you’d think it would be easy to avoid skiing; trust me, it is not. A few months before I graduated, I (22) started dating a boy (24) met on Bumble. He suggested we meet on the Tamesis, a boat docked on the banks of the River Thames. I accepted the offer; it was a conveniently short walk from my university, but, as it turned out, an even shorter walk from his flat (probably why he suggested it.) 

The first red flag was when, whilst holding my hands, he told me I should cut my nails because they were “too long.” I took personal offence to this, as I take great pride in my nail upkeep. The second red flag was when, during our third date, he soberly informed me that the third date meant sex (in my opinion, you can have sex on any date if and when both parties want to), and the third red flag was an actual flag hanging on his living room wall which said “Saturdays are for the Boys.” If you’re wondering why I agreed to a third date after the nail-gate of date one: I am a big fan of trains, and in all honesty I think I was more attracted to his special edition Oyster card, adorned with a celebration of the London bus, than I was to him. 

To cut a long story short, he was obsessed with “getting out of the city” to ski, which would form basis of most of his conversation. Suffice to say we had little in common, which would have led to an amiable parting of ways, but alas, he ghosted me. I bumped into him a few months later, on a busy street in Central London. Not a single word was exchanged; he instead laughed in my face before walking away. Obviously this left me mortified and I now have to avoid Kennington, his last known address, and skiing – because a.) I don’t relate and b.) God forbid we bump into each other on the ‘slopes.’

An illustration of 3 red flags.

5. The lift at work

We swiped right and engaged in average banter over the course of an evening. I was 23, I think he was 27. It transpired we were almost neighbours; I moved out of my south London flat three months before he moved into his, a few doors away. “Lucky we don’t live down the road from each other, you wouldn’t be able to keep away!” More messages were exchanged along this vein, but since forced innuendo was not my conversation category of choice, I had decided to ghost him – unfortunately instead I drunkenly gave out my number at 4am a few nights later.

An illustration of a text conversation from "Somewhere in February, 2019." The conversation text in speech bubbles reads: "Someone was up late last night" "Lol, who's this?" "No need to be rude. You gave me your number last night on Tinder."

I blocked him shortly after because I didn’t want to deal with a boy who misinterpreted my sense of humour for rudeness. I started an internship in London a week later, in a tall building on The Strand. In a lift one lunchtime, the doors opened on a lower floor and he walked straight inside… We shared uncomfortable eye contact, each aware of who the other person was, and I silently prayed that he wouldn’t say anything. When the doors opened on the ground floor I exited, putting it down to an awkward coincidence that would definitely never happen again. A quick search on LinkedIn confirmed his identity; he did indeed work in the same building as me and it was him in the lift. 

The following week, I got the lift and he again stepped in a few floors down. It was crowded so he had to stand right next to me. There was a tension in the air and I thought the only way the situation could get any worse was if the lift broke down with just the two of us in it. I messaged a friend about the encounter on my way home. “You’re stuck in a Rom-Com! Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling you that he’s the one!” (It was not.)

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